Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner now claiming prosecutor’s death was not a suicide.
By Guy Taylor - The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2015
In an abrupt about-face, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner claimed Thursday that the prosecutor who turned up dead in the nation just days after accusing her of pursuing a secret deal to bury Iran’s alleged role in a 1994 bombing at a Buenos Aires Jewish center did not commit suicide.
In the latest twist in a story that has transfixed the country, Mrs. Kirchner asserted that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor found early Monday with a bullet wound in his head, was killed by nefarious actors trying to smear her.
While she stopped short of saying who may have pulled the trigger, Mrs. Kirchner suggested the assassination was carried out by someone who wanted it to appear as if she or others in her government were responsible. Whoever it was, she wrote in a letter posted on her presidential website, they used Mr. Nisman “while he was alive, and then they needed him dead.”
The comments cast a dark new specter over a case that has triggered large street protests in Argentina and international headlines this week.
Mr. Nisman, 51, was a controversial prosecutor who gained international attention for his assertions that Iran has long supported terrorism in the Western Hemisphere and for his yearslong probe into the 1994 car bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
The bombing occurred at a volatile time in a decades-old “shadow war” between Israel and Iran marked by covert plots carried out by both sides in various corners of the world. With such context as a backdrop, speculation swirled Thursday over who Mrs. Kirchner thought was behind the murder.
Four days before his body was found by authorities in his locked Buenos Aires apartment, Mr. Nisman had filed a 289-page report alleging that the Kirchner government tried to cut a clandestine deal with Tehran to prevent the prosecution of former Iranian officials accused of involvement in the bombing. Citing transcripts of intercepted government phone calls, the report asserted that Argentine officials had promised protection for the Iranians as part of an agreement that would also involve trading Argentine agricultural products for Iranian oil.
In her letter Thursday, Mrs. Kirchner contended that Mr. Nisman had been given false information about Iran’s role from Antonio “Jaime” Stiusso, the former operations director of the Secretariat of Intelligence who recently was replaced. She said Mr. Nisman had been caught up in internal power struggles in the intelligence community.
Viviana Fein, the lead investigator, declined to comment on the president’s comments.
Mr. Nisman made international headlines in 2013 when he issued a report claiming Iranian authorities have spent the past three decades fostering terrorist networks throughout Latin America, infiltrating several nations in the region with the goal of executing future attacks.
Republican lawmakers in Washington seized on the document months later when a report by the State Department issued claimed Iranian influence in the hemisphere was “waning.”
A Capitol Hill probe stalled when Mr. Nisman did not show up in Washington to testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Republican Reps. Michael T. McCaul of Texas and Jeff Duncan of South Carolina accused Mrs. Kirchner at the time of moving to “deny authorization for Mr. Nisman to testify.”
In a statement this week, Mr. Duncan described Mr. Nisman as “a man of courage” whose “work has been vital in showing the role that Iran has played in supporting terrorism in the Western Hemisphere.
— This article was based in part on wire service reports.